In almost all cases a person who wishes to take court action (except in very limited circumstances such as cases of domestic violence) will be expected to attend a MIAM mediation meeting before they issue any court application. This is to show that they have considered other ways of resolving their problems before applying to the courts and to try to avoid unnecessary delay for themselves and their family.
During the MIAM mediation session the mediator will talk to you about how mediation works, what is involved and if it is suitable for your situation. They will also be able to signpost you to other services that can help you, for example information about support for children after separation, debt management, housing options, counselling and personal professional support.
The mediator will ask you some very sensitive questions about whether there have been any issues of domestic abuse and violence between you and your ex-partner. It is very important to be honest with the mediator so that they can understand what is happening and work out if mediation is suitable for your situation. They may also have a duty to report concerns to a specific agency where it is felt that any of the participants are at risk of harm or there are any safeguarding concerns.
Normally the mediator will meet with each participant of the mediation separately but there are some situations where it is appropriate to have joint sessions with both parties. During the session, the mediator will be making notes and it is important to be as clear as possible about what your individual circumstances are. They will then ask you about what your priorities are for resolving the matter and what you have in mind as far as future plans for yourself and any children are concerned.
It is very important to remember that the mediator will be neutral at this stage and they will not be taking sides or judging you. You will be talking about very delicate and emotive issues and the mediator will be working to protect you and your family.
You will need to bring any documentation with you that you think is relevant, for example your birth certificate or passport. Also, it is worth bringing a list of your assets (how much your house is worth, cars, caravans, timeshares etc) and your finances (how much you owe on loans and credit cards). This will be helpful for the mediator to have so that they can assess whether or not your case is suitable for mediation. The mediator will be able to tell you at the end of the session if they feel that it is not. The mediator will also be able to sign the C100 form (child arrangement issues) or Form A (finance issues) on your behalf, so that you can then apply for a court order. This is a legal requirement, and you cannot make an application to the court until you have done this.